How I Found the Perfect Sneakers
I have a favorite sneaker model. I buy it whenever it’s on sale, and whatever is on the shelves, I don’t even think about trying on anything else. But shoes that fit me don’t fit all. This is what my quest looked like – and what you need to know to find it.
I made a crazy guess just like any newbie
I was young and stupid, but I had read several articles about the world of running, so I knew there was such a thing as “real running shoes” and that I shouldn’t be running in any old running shoes. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to find the right one. So, like most newbies, I went to the largest store I could think of — in my case, a Nike outlet — and tried on everything in the running section. I had no idea which shoes were the “best,” but they were discounted, so I went home with two different pairs.
One of them, Nike Presto , was thin and soft, with a sock-like upper. I liked that it was comfortable and lightweight. I hardly remember the other. It was more of a traditional sneaker and it was blue in color.
When I ran in blue, my legs ached after about a mile – a sharp pain in the arches. To this day, I have no idea what the pain was and why I still sometimes experience it in certain boots. I didn’t have any such problems with Presto, so I kept working with them. That was until I decided to prepare for the marathon. A few weeks later, my legs started to hurt. In hindsight, I know it was just mild tendonitis that would have resolved on its own with rest. But at the time, I had no idea. I also didn’t have health insurance, so I didn’t get one.
Instead, I posted a post on the runners forum. I mentioned my training goals, my mileage, and my shoes. I was laughed at on the Internet. What do you work in? people said. Go to a real running store and buy real shoes.
I did my research but it wasn’t enough
All of this happened almost fifteen years ago, and in the meantime, research has shown that if a pair of shoes is pleasant to the touch when you run , it will probably work for you. But at the time, it was generally accepted that there was a science about choosing shoes, and it all started with figuring out what your “foot type” was.
So, I’ve read about everything that we now know is pretty much bogus, like checking the shape of your wet footprint and looking at the height of your arches . With this information in hand, I found a real running store where everything they sell is sneakers, athletic equipment, and running apparel, all of which seemed very expensive. ( Fleet Feet is a network you may recognize, but many are independent .) These stores have seasoned runners, they know their feet and run, and they usually have a large selection of shoes.
I walked in waiting for some kind of comprehensive technical assessment of my gait, shape and type of foot. Instead, the salesperson asked how much I was running and what I was training for, handed me a shoe and asked what it was like. “Okay,” I replied. He said they were good shoes. I didn’t know what else to do, so I bought it.
I was disappointed with the service, but have since visited existing stores with better results. After all, these are companies that see many similar customers and sometimes are busy. And if you’re trying to fix a problem caused by an injury, going to a shoe store isn’t the same as going to the doctor.
I took a pair home and later found that they had the same problem as the blue shoes: they hurt my feet after a mile. I didn’t know I could get them back . I saw no reason to go back to the store. Instead, I gave up running.
I tried trend but the results were mixed
Years later, I tried again by doing my own research and buying shoes online. This time, I chose the motion control shoes . Sometimes it only hurt, so I ran through this for a while. But I was disappointed that I could not continue to play the sport that I liked because of such nonsense as choosing shoes.
I ordered a pair and started retraining myself to tiptoe instead of running heel on the ground. (Without any kind of cushion in the heel, this is the recommended way of running in them.) They have had tremendous success. My feet liked these non-shoes.
Well, except for one thing. The thin sole was great, the flexibility was amazing, but I was lucky with long toes that felt cramped in the short pockets of the vibrator’s pinky fingers. By now, I figured out what I needed: a shoe that was flexible all over the sole but didn’t crunch in my toes.
Experimentation pays off because it helps you understand what works and what doesn’t. It also helps if you don’t get too attached to the subject of your experiments. While I was wearing the shoes, I talked about their magnificence to everyone I met. But in the end, they didn’t suit me. Instead, they pushed me to find the right shoes.
I listened to my body and you should too
Time was finally on my side. Nike began producing a shoe called Free that mimics barefoot running. Minimalist running became important, and for some, Free was a misguided attempt to make money. In the same forums where people told me my shoes were too flimsy, people were now laughing at the fact that Free was soft and structured too, to really be considered minimal.
Then I realized something. In terms of fit, support and flexibility, these shoes were nearly identical to the Prestos I ran in before I stopped.
Some people hate Nike shoes, but they fit my feet perfectly. Each shoe company shapes its products with a different foot shape in the form, or in terms of the shoemaker, another last . Nike shoes are usually made with a narrow last that matches my narrow foot. You may have to try different brands to figure out what works for you, but when you find it, pay more attention to the feeling than what people are saying about it.
I stuck with what worked and the rest is history
I kept running in the same pair of Nike Frees for years. You have to change your shoes every 300-500 miles, but I didn’t want to risk it. I started preparing for the marathon, and around the middle of the workout, my coach gave the command: we should all buy a new pair of shoes and break them about two months before the marathon. But we were not allowed to fail in success. “Whatever you have,” he said, “buy the same shoes.”
So I bought a new pair of Nike Frees with one amendment: I wore an 8 but bought a 9. Due to the extra space for my toes, I no longer had blisters or black toenails. I ran my marathon in these boots. They are higher, after about 200 miles.
When you find shoes that will allow your feet to travel hundreds of miles, stick with them. I no longer try on shoes or seek advice from running store employees or anyone else. I just order a couple more of the same items . Nike has redesigned the shoe several times over the years, but it still works for me. I won’t switch unless it’s necessary, like if they stop making shoes or do something radical with a redesign. And if it comes down to it, now I know what I’m looking for in a shoe: mostly flexibility and a narrow last. This gives me a good starting point for my searches. Your personal requirements may vary, but when you find a shoe that suits them, stick to it.
I bought a second pair of waterproof fabric for running in light rain and snow. I once found another pair at a sale, so I bought them and put them in the closet for later. I went on vacation and forgot my shoes, so I bought another pair of the same model. Years passed, I ran and was out of order five pairs. I am already the sixth.
Your story may be different
I asked my running friends and acquaintances how they settled on their current shoes. “I got them for free,” said one friend who promotes the Credit Union Cherry Blossom race on social media and gets paid partially for the shoes. She thinks it’s strange that there are shoes I can’t run in.
Several more people went to the store, asked for advice and have been running around in the same shoes ever since. Some took the same route as me, trying minimalist shoes after more structured shoes failed. One runner asked a podiatrist for advice after she tore a tendon and ended up with a superstructured shoe with orthopedic insoles that fit her. Another runner went to a running store and assessed her gait and foot type in detail, then tried on a bunch of shoes. She admitted that she said they all “didn’t fit” until the salesperson presented a model she didn’t think was ugly.
My advice to aspiring runners is to stick with the shoes you own, if you like them. Don’t let anyone tell you that they are too flimsy, too structured, too trendy, or too old-fashioned. If they work, they work. And if you haven’t found that perfect match yet, feel free to experiment. I still recommend running stores, partly because you can find a great employee to give you great advice, and partly because they usually let you return shoes that don’t work even if you ran outside in them. … (Be sure to ask about their policies.) Sometimes you have to try a lot of useless things before you find the perfect shoe.
There are many paths to the perfect running shoe, and what works for someone else may not work for you. If I had to do it all over again, I would trust my intuition and stick with Presto: it had all the qualities that I now know I need in a shoe. I just had to experiment with other things to figure it out the hard way. But now that I have a new favorite shoe, I stick to it.